CHINA LAKE by Hyde Anthony
Kirkus Star


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A long-thought-out espionage tale, about a dense and tangled search into the past that means to reveal something about the dense and tangled nature of man himself. Hyde (The Red Fox, 1985) again echoes le CarrÉ's bathysphere style and bottomless paragraphs, those shining flakes of analysis that lead into ever deeper analysis. Here, someone is out to kill retired naval security officer Jack Tannis, who lives near the China Lake Weapons Center in California's Mojave Desert. It was at China Lake that the air-to-air, heat-seeking Sidewinder missile, which gave total air superiority to US jet fighters, was invented and developed in the 50's. Somehow the Russians came up with an identical missile. China Lake scientist David Harper was set up to take the fall as the sellout spy. But intelligence officer Jack Tannis stood up for Harper, proved his innocence. Even so, Harper, discredited, lost all hope of pursuing a scientific career, went home to England, and became a nature photographer for public television. His wife Diana divorced him. Now, in 1985, Tannis finds himself almost assassinated in the desert; and then in the Welsh countryside, while hanging from a cliff-face and filming a rare eagle in flight, Harper too is the victim of an attempted murder. But...was he saved by a rope thrown to him by Tannis, whom he's not seen in 25 years? Tannis is gifted with somewhat magical powers of deduction, whose unleavings we follow inward leaf by leaf-a kind of parallel power to Harper's gift for semimagical infrared guidance systems. Harper's ex-wife Diana commits suicide but leaves behind a letter that eventually drives Harper into East Berlin and a search through the German rocket museum at Dom, then to a cave on the rim of China Lake--where Tannis unknots the great mystery of Harper's life. Though its final unravelings become quite thin, and whether Hyde's endless deductive style really holds is questionable, this is a winner. Anyone reading to the end is presold on the genre and knows its shortfall.

Pub Date: May 7th, 1992
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Knopf